Friday, 30 April 2010

This is the child

This is the child.

This is my daughter, Jessica.
My second child.

On occasion, I get this child of the present moment confused with the child that was.
Twenty months ago.

These two children are the same person. I would know that face anywhere.

That tiny child whose blood pressure, rate of respiration, oxygen saturation and heart rate I could sit engrossed in for hours.

That child who will always have a slight hint of the fairy tale about her.
A child with a dead sister, a dead twin.
A price paid, a ransom handed over.
My Thumbelina.
My Tom Thumb.
A woman who longed for a child so much that she accidentally wished two children into being.
Be careful what you wish for, you'll get it.
Because with wish granters, there is always a bill to pay. They're tricksy like that.
And the price is steep.

A child whose brain bled, who contracted infection after infection. Who approached death on her tiny feet and began a bizarre courtly dance that lasted weeks. Step forward, step back, curtsy to your partner.

A child who should have been unborn. But was thrust into light, to sound. Whose very flesh was grated against by fluorescent strip lights and buzzing alarms and a dizzying spiral of medications and procedures.
A mother who was uncertain as to whether to shut the eyes of her children or to simply shut her own.

A tiny child.
And I think perhaps you know why I hold on to that tiny child so.
Because there was another.
Another tiny child.
A child who will never change. Either that or she has changed beyond all recognition.
To ash or to air.
It's too close for me to call it.

But she is not this child. The first born yet not the first born. The eldest and yet not. My big girl.

A child mythologised by her own mother.

A child who is, after all, just a child.

All of this was just her preamble (to steal a phrase from a lovely comment left by Emily at sweetsalty)
A prologue that I hope she will skim over and set aside, it being all so terribly, terribly long ago.
An incidental.
An introduction.
Not the entirety that I seem to want to make it.
It is not the whole of her life. Just the very, very beginning.

This is the child that has attempted to sneak off with an entire bowl full of butter cream icing and a spoon. When caught red handed, she howled in protest and her mother just had to let her have a couple of bites.

This is the child that rejects all the fondly remembered TV programmes of my 80s childhood, purchased in anticipation of many happy hours of nostalgic bonding.  No Bagpuss, Mr Ben or Trumpton for this girl. She is a child of modern times.

This is the child who will chase either of her parents, or indeed any adult who looks halfway literate, around the house, flailing a book at their knees. She hasn't managed any words yet but has a very specific grunt that means READ! NOW! YES, YOU! I'M TALKING TO YOU! And believe me when you've tangled with a determined toddler wielding a hard back, triple bill Dr Seuss treasury you don't say no again in a hurry. Even if it is the 15,000,000th time you've read Green Eggs and Ham aloud and the application of comedy accents isn't raising your spirits. The CD (as recommended by Emma's Daddy)  is easing the number of repetitions but we're still in the region of around ten per day.

When I was pregnant, I used to read poetry to my belly. I feel a bit silly admitting that now.
I suppose if everything had gone according to plan and my children had been born perfectly healthy and were now showing tendencies towards literary genius I would be quick to take the credit.
But one of them is dead and the other. . . . well, she still may be a literary genius who knows.
If she is, I won't be taking the credit.
If not, I won't be shouldering the blame.

I used to read Louis Macneice (who I dote on a little as you might have noticed) and one of the poems I read most frequently was 'Prayer Before Birth' and here are the lines that haunt me still.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
   to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
      in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
  old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
     frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
      waves call me to folly and the desert calls 
         me to doom and the beggar refuses
           my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; console me

Georgina - if only I could make some consolation, some provision, some rehearsal for you.
I only wish I could.
I'm sorry you never went outside. There was no water, no grass, no trees, sky or birds. I can only hold out for the white light.
There was no time and your prayers, if you made any, hung unanswered on the air and evaporated upwards, accompanied by my own.

Jessica - you are born. Sometimes I feel as though I've only just noticed.
You are the child that you are now.
This is the child.
This is the child who lived.
This is the child who lives.
No matter how many prayers I pray before birth, none of them bring goods for you.
Because that time has passed.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

All over the place

During an argument with my husband on Sunday he said to me, "You really need to get some control."

This irritated me no end. On Sunday.

But today . . .

having spent the best part of an hour hiding out in the ladies toilets crying when I should have been at my desk working . . .

I'm beginning to think he might have a point. Much as I hate to lose the argument.

All of this because the chap who sits behind me's wife had unexpectedly gone into premature labour at 30 weeks. Somebody else in the office made a joke about the steroids making the baby really big and muscular. I was suddenly flipped backwards to those two tiny bodies lying in boxes in a hospital and how useless those steroids had turned out to be in my case.

I couldn't catch my breath. I had to head for the door of the office, up the stairs to the toilets where I locked myself in a cubicle, sat on the floor and had a good long cry.
And emerged with grey streaks down my face and red eyes.
Then I had to undo my hair in an attempt to disguise the disaster zone around my eyes.
The presence of some rather intractable knots in the back of my hair meant that, instead of saving the situation, undoing my hair just ended up spreading the disaster zone from my eyes to pretty much my entire head.
So not only am I actually a mess, I even have to look like a snotty, bug eyed, tangle-haired mess. Just swell.

This is getting ridiculous. I can't expect people to tiptoe round me after all this time. Surely I should be able to manage a little better than this.

But it hurts. What happened to my girls. It still hurts so much.
That hurt is so dense, so heavy that I sometimes think I can feel it. A lump in my throat. A lump in my chest. It has a physical presence that hovers just under my skin, waiting for something to press it, to brush against it and make it ache.
It hurts and, strangely, I am still so very shocked by it all. Disbelieving. Shaking my head and thinking that this can't be happening. Not really. Not to me.
I thought it would be more manageable by now, that I might have made what happened a part of me.
Instead there's a constant chorus in the back of my brain, 'my daughter died, my daughter died',
'Hi, I'm Catherine W AND my daughter died.'
'Here's your spreadsheet. Oh and by the way, my daughter died.'
'Hey you, random stranger on the street, my daughter died.'
And sometimes that muttering gets so loud, I can't think of anything else.

Any ideas for regaining control?

I'd settle for just a little bit.
Just enough so I don't get fired for not being at my desk half the time.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Thank you for being so kind about my comments on my own lack of creativity. 
I have always doubted myself. Even more so since Georgina died. 
Not just my creativity. My body. My femininity. My moral worth. 
Whether it was down to hair dye, or accidental caffeine consumption, or because 'I lied when I was seventeen', I was sure it was me.
I remember sobbing to my mum that she had died because I was rotten inside. My guts were rotting and that had poisoned her and killed her.
I do realise that particular theory doesn't make any sense.
It's one of many that I've concocted over the last nineteen months. I could write them all down but it would be soul destroying to do and incredibly boring to read. I've thought of many, many plot lines which would explain precisely how I managed to murder Georgina.

I worry about my words so much because I think that, if they are badly written, it will reflect upon Georgina. Because I'm all she's got. 
I am, most likely, the only person who will ever write about her. 
And I worry that somehow, due to my own lack of talent or flair, I will end up slighting her, detracting from her.

I feel that I want to make my writing better because Georgina is my muse. The only muse I've ever had. 
Georgina is the only person I've ever met that made me attempt to write anything, to make this clumsy old mother bird take wing on a flight of fancy. Someone that made this spreadsheet bound numbers girl try her hand at something different. Because, in this instance, numbers simply weren't going to cut it. 

I suspect that, once this blog is over and disappears, I will never write anything again. Not like this. 
Obviously I will write e-mails and technical documents and fa.cebook status updates and so on. 
But not this type of extended love letter / biography / whine / self examination / self pity / drivel ? 
Certainly nothing ever this darn long. Never again. I wouldn't have the patience.

If I could write how I truly feel about her, I would have no need for doubt. 

This strange world of blogs is of full of creative and (in my opinion) brilliant writers. I frequently read posts that make my heart pound and my eyes fill up, that make me laugh, or sigh, or nod.
Sometimes I feel as though my Georgina is poorly represented as I hover on the outskirts trying to conjure up something that hasn't been said a hundred times before and a thousand times better. But I hope that she hears the underlying rhythm to all of this, those words that underpin all of this and all of me, all of my life that 'this is about Georgina.' My Georgina. As I hunch over my keyboard up here, as I drive in my car, as I sing to her sister. Georgina. 
You are there in the midst of it. 
Or a thought of you. 
You, or your ghost. 
You, or something very like.
I hope.

It has all been said before, better than I can say it. 
Women (and men) have been saying this, all of this and more, since before the invention of language. 
I am just another in a long, long line of weeping women. 
Georgina is just another in a long, long line of dead children. A child who died at three days old. As children have always done and will continue to do so until the end of time no doubt.
There is no special nuance to my grief, it does not follow a new and peculiar trajectory, nothing exceptional, nothing to see here.
Except . . .
Except that it is for her.

And here's a little song from a singer who sings a teensy bit how I write (flattering myself wildly). He'll always use twenty words when one would have been sufficient. I guess he's not that great a singer. Technically speaking. Kind of mumbly and he has to sing quite fast to fit all those words in. 
But I still like him. A lot. Because he can write things like this. That 'trying not to think' thing. Yup.
And I may mumble. But I mumble about Georgina and that will do for me. I don't need to doubt myself so much.

Broken broken broken heart
When will you just go away
You just hurt hurt hurt inside of me
Every minute of the night and day

And all I do is try try not to think
Not to think of anything at all
If I can keep myself from thinking for the rest of my life
Maybe I'll survive this fall 

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Induced fit

Thank you so much for all your comments on my last post.

I sometimes find my desire for another child incomprehensible and puzzling. I feel as though my family narrowly escaped a complete catastrophe. That we are standing outside a burning building with singed hair and smoke in our lungs but still breathing, still alive. We left a member of our family inside that fire, a daughter, a sister, a twin. But I no longer want to sit and watch the building burn to the ground. I want to grab my three surviving family members and hug them tight and run away as fast as I can.  (Tracy OC, sorry. I know you've already been subjected to this particular ramble ahead of the game.)

To decide to have another child would seem to be an open invitation for disaster to come calling once again. I don't want to test my luck. I feel as though I have used up all the good fortune I can expect from one lifetime. It would be stupidity to head back into that place of unexpected lightning strikes and their resultant blazes, wouldn't it? I'm still undecided. Double or quits?

I also struggle with the idea that my hopes for another child are a betrayal of Georgina. That a part of me hopes to replace her or to conjure her back into existence. 
I hope that I am clear in my own mind about I stand to gain. What I stand to lose.
Another child, a different child. Not twins. Certainly not Jessica's twin. 
Another child that could well die. Another child that could well live. It's a fifty fifty chance. It always is as far as I am concerned.
Another pregnancy, a different pregnancy. Not as hopeful or joyful as my first. But I can clothe it in some of the remnants of that joy and hope I'm sure, raggedy little bits left of those things that were left behind. I've still got them. I'm not letting go of them. Not yet.
No guarantees. There never are. 

I will never lose the grief. It is here to stay. No turning back. No ripping up and starting again. Permanent.

I sometimes find myself becoming short tempered with people who say that I can always have another child. Yes, I hope so. But it isn't a given. I hope it is something that I never, ever take for granted. But another child will not be Georgina. I will never have that particular person, my daughter, my first born, back again. 

In the newspaper today, I read a sentence that stopped me dead in my tracks. 
It makes me aware that it is not just having children that changes you. It is the children you have, too.

Self-evident you would think. Not something that you would need to publish in a national newspaper but ho hum. And, because of the person that I am and the turns my life has taken, I want to append, and the children you don't have. 

I'm not a creative type. It saddens me. I come from a family who draw, paint, write, photograph, create. But not me. When the gifts were given out, I wasn't standing in that particular line. If you've been reading here for a while you'll know that I sometimes go off on a weird scientific or mathematical tangent. Because that's what I know. The clumsy metaphors that I pick are from the strange collection of stuff that lurks in my brain, stuff I once studied. It's all I have. I wish I had more beautiful stuff to pick from but I don't. So bear with me. You've endured my life as the sea slug, Aplysia. Some of you have endured it twice. Bless your stoical little hearts. You've endured my description of the proportional relationship between gestation and grief allowed. If you're still here, I am about to launch into another. And my science is rubbishly remembered, hazy and partially derived from Wikipedia. So don't go quoting me. And I have a bad feeling that some of you, certainly biojen and bluebirdsinging to name but two, probably know a great deal more about this than me. So ladies, cover for me if I messed this up. Don't go exposing me as an ignoramus. 

An enzyme is something that makes a chemical reaction go faster. It isn't actually involved. Kind of hanging out with the molecules in a cheerleader type role. Some molecules go in to the reaction, different molecules come out. The enzyme kinds of helps it all along. The enzymes don't get used up in the reaction, they are just there making sure that everything is ticking along nicely.

These enzymes are picky guys. They won't cheer for just any old team that rocks up. They are choosy, they are selective. 

Initially, it was thought that this choosiness on the part of enzymes was because only certain molecules 'fit' them. Like a lock and a key.

Subsequently, this view was refined into the induced fit hypothesis. Enzymes may be selective but they react to the molecules that are around them. Their active sites, the places where the molecules bind to the enzyme, are continually reshaped until the molecules are completely bound. Then those molecules are released, as different products as a result of their interaction with the enzyme.

Like so. 

Diagram stolen from Wikipedia. Hope they don't sue. 

And I thought to myself. My children changed me. I am like the enzyme. I am not consumed by, or necessary for, their interaction with the world. Yet I'm there, cheering them on. Wanting them to survive, to thrive. Wanting their interaction with me to free them as something different, something more independent, happier. 

There are places in my body where, I could swear, their marks are left behind. My physical structure, my cell biology, my genetics, my 'active sites' were changed. Their fit changed as a result of knowing my daughters. Places changed, sites appeared. Induced to fit Georgina. Induced to fit Jessica. Those particular children. The children that I birthed and the children that I love. No other person will ever fit those places in me. No subsequent child. Not my husband. Not other family members. Not anything. 

The places that fit Jessica are still changing. They mutate and change shape as she grows. I know so much more about her than I did. And yet I am surprised at how well I knew her prior to her birth. 

Jessica's shape is not fully defined. I hope to leave this world a long, long time before it is. She changes and the places deep within me that are solely hers change alongside her. Constant motion, spinning round to fit the person that she reveals herself to be. Someone who still likes to hear 'Green Eggs and Ham' read aloud about twenty five times a day in case you were wondering. But how precious. How astounding. That I know that is the book that she likes best. I'm so lucky to know that fact. 

Georgina's spaces are different. All that Georgina will ever be, she is and has been. She no longer changes. Her reaction is spent. This time around. Yet the spaces that are hers, hers alone, remain within me. She created them whilst she was still inside my womb, she changed them in the three days she lived. I knew something of her, during my pregnancy, during her life. 

She was bound to me, bound so tightly to those spaces within me. Then she was released. As something different, something I can never understand.

And the spaces she left behind. Carved into me. Created by her. By Georgina. Not her sister, not another child, not anyone else I will ever meet. By my precious daughter. By her particular being. The specificness of her limbs, her mind, her eyes, her personality. Created a void within me. A binding site perfectly matched to a child who no longer exists.

Or perhaps she does exist still, in a shadowy fashion. In that negative space within me. The space that longs and yearns only for her. Her precise inverse. Georgina's true twin. The place she left behind. 
In me. In my husband. In her sister. We miss her.

Monday, 5 April 2010


In November last year, I saw a negative pregnancy test for the first time in about ten years.
I have seen quite a few of this variety since.

I had taken about two or three pregnancy tests when I was younger, back in that strange and distant land known at the 1990s. I remember my hands shaking and my stomach churning, hoping and hoping and pleading that there would be no second line. Unsuitable boyfriend. Degree to finish. Inability to look after self, let alone child. All the usual reasons.

Then, like most women I suppose, there came a time when my hands were still shaking and I was still hoping and pleading. But now I was pleading for that second line to please, please, please show up.

I've been so very 'lucky' up until this time, the so-called third time lucky. I fell pregnant with the twins on the first cycle we tried for a baby, I fell pregnant again the first time we decided to try for a third child. But then I miscarried a few weeks later.

Since then. Still trying for that elusive third. Nothing.

I worry. I wake up in the night and worry. Worry away at the idea. Until I am worn away.
Perhaps I've left it too late.
Perhaps I will never have another child.
Perhaps I will have another child, another child born too early, another child who dies.
Perhaps the brief 'half' pregnancy I had with the twins will be my only pregnancy.
Perhaps I will never feel a child move in my womb and know it for a baby and not indigestion.
Perhaps I will never move with the slow consideration of a heavily pregnant woman, my husband will never feel a child of ours kick from inside my body.
Perhaps this is all I will ever know of pregnancy and motherhood.
A hovering.
A circling around a plastic box of wires and machines.
A slow, slow, slow cessation of breath and the faltering beat of a heart that fades away to silence.

Endless waiting, waiting, waiting.
Seemingly endless on one hand.
On the other, yes, endless.
I will be waiting a very, very long time to see Georgina do these things.

Waiting to touch my daughter.
Waiting to hold my daughter.
Waiting for her to feed, to fight infections, for ducts to close, for eyes to open, for ears to form, for unruly growths of blood vessels to die back, for protruding organs under the skin to be swept back in.
For her to take a breath.

And I am still so very, very angry and bitter.
That this is the hand that I was dealt.
That this is the hand that my children were dealt.

And I hate myself for that bitterness and anger.
Because I have no right to them. I have a living, breathing child.
A child who should be a ghost. Who should be with her sister.
A child who, in all honesty, has no business being alive.
In my mind's eye, I still see that tiny human that was Jessica.
Certainly that dainty, red body was my very own Jessica beyond a shadow of a doubt.
But my brain seems to have trouble taking it all in, even now.

If it were up to me she would be dead. For all my love, for all my care, for everything I might fancy I know.
If it had been left up to me, I would have watched both my daughters die.
Those early faltering breaths and cries would have been their whole lives.

Because love doesn't mend broken things.
Love can't act as surfactant for immature lungs.
Love can't work it's way through a body to clear infection, to fix faulty circulatory plumbing.
I've obviously been wired incorrectly, as part of me believes that it might have done. If I could just have tried harder. What a cruel state of affairs.

And I wanted two. I wanted my two tiny, broken daughters to survive. Both. And now I want more.
Strange to think I would have been almost eight months pregnant if I hadn't miscarried.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Easter Basket Blog Hop and Project Sweet Pea

Right, I'm going to try and do something technical with this post. Sorry if it comes out a complete mess. I'm completely out of my blogging comfort zone!
The lovely AnnaMarie at A Garden for Butterflies tagged me in the Hershey's Better Basket Blog Hop. Beautiful Mess sent a lovely Easter Basket in honour of Toren's birthday. 
For each post in the Hershey's Better Basket Blog Hop, Hershey's will donate $10 to the Children's Miracle Network. The blog post must occur before 12pm on April 4th so hop to it and give baskets to your blogging friends!

The official rules:


  • Copy and paste these rules to your blog post.
  • Create a blog post giving a virtual Easter Basket to another blogger – you can give as many Virtual Baskets as you want.
  • Link back to person who gave you an Easter Basket.
  • Let each person you are giving a Virtual Easter Basket know you have given them a Basket.
  • Leave your link at comment section. You can also find the official rules of this #betterbasket blog hop, and more information about Better Basket with Hershey’s there.
  • Hershey’s is donating $10 per each blog participating to the Better Basket Blog Hop to Children’s Miracle Network (up to total of $5,000 by blog posts written by April 4th, 2010).
  • Please note that only one blog post by each blog url will count towards the donation. 
I suspect I might be too late to give Easter Baskets to anyone who will be able to write a blog post before April 4th but consider yourself tagged if you are reading this. I'm hoping that mine will be able to sneak in before the deadline! 

And can I just say that I have no idea why England doesn't really seem to DO peanut butter? But I am in a permanent stress about this state of affairs. Looking at all those lovely Reeses  peanut butter eggs is making me jealous that I will not be able to eat one tomorrow. However, we do have the equally gloopy Cadbury's Creme Egg so I will just have to be content with one of those instead! 

Whilst I am attempting to do technical things with my blog, I'm going to try and post a voting button. I'm feeling very ambitious this evening!
Megan, who writes at
MJ's Memories, is working with Project Sweetpea to donate care packages to families that have a baby in the NICU. They have applied for a grant through the Pepsi Refresh Project, and have been selected as a finalist to win a $25,000 grant!! So here is how you can help: vote once a day, every day for Project Sweet Peas to win. They need to be in the top ten at the end of the month to win.

You can set this up to vote directly through facebook as well which is pretty nifty! So if you have a spare moment at your computer during the day, please vote for Project Sweet Pea.